Spanish paedophile arrested for murder of girl 'to be quizzed' over Madeleine McCann's disappearance

Kate and Gerry McCann have demanded Portuguese police find out where a Spanish paedophile arrested yesterday was on the day their daughter Madeleine disappeared.

The 52-year-old convicted paedophile was arrested on suspicion of killing Mari Luz Cortes, the five-year-old whose disappearance was initially linked to Madeleine's.

The McCanns printed thousands of posters with pictures of their daughter and Mari Luz on them in a bid to solve the two cases.

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madeleine poster

Don't forget us: One of the posters handed out during the search for the two missing girls

The Spanish child's body was found floating in an estuary in Huelva near the Portuguese border on March 7 shortly after the posters went up around Spain.

The man has told police he panicked and dumped her body after she fell to her death in an accident.

It had previously been reported he had confessed to murdering her.

He now claims she fell from stairs in flats where he was living in Huelva when she disappeared.

He is reported to have convictions for child abuse and indecent assault on minors, and is already said to have confessed to Mari Luz's murder.

Clarence Mitchell, spokesman for the McCanns, said today: "We hope the Portuguese police will be liaising with the Spanish police to establish this man's movements around the time Madeleine disappeared.

"We have no indication there is a direct link between the two cases.

"But given the proximity of the places Madeleine and Mari Luz disappeared from and the similarity in their ages, we believe it's important the Portuguese police make absolutely sure there's no connection now there's been an arrest."

Madeleine, four, vanished on May 3 as Gerry and Kate, both 39, ate tapas in a nearby bar in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz.

Mari Luz disappeared from her home town of Huelva, a 90-minute drive away, on January 13 as she went to buy sweets.

A post-mortem carried out after her body was discovered showed she had been suffocated. Her parents subsequently ordered a second post-mortem whose results have not been made public.

Spanish TV station Telecinco today named the man arrested on suspicion of her murder as Santiago del Valle Garcia. Police have not confirmed the name.

His sister, named unofficially as Rosa, and his wife, named unofficially as Isabel, were also arrested - although one of the women is thought to have been released early this morning.

All three were detained in a rented house in Cuenca, an hour and a half's drive south of Madrid.

The arrested man is a former neighbour of Mari Luz's family and lived less than 100 yards from her parents Juan Jose and Irene on the route the youngster would have taken as she returned from a local sweet shop.

He had already been quizzed by police before his arrest yesterday after arousing the suspicion of locals by leaving Huelva with his wife the day after Mari Luz disappeared.

Police are also reported to be quizzing him over a plot to kidnap a schoolgirl in Seville and a friendship he struck up with a 12-year-old girl over the Internet after allegedly fooling her into believing he was a youngster of the same age.

Speaking shortly after the arrest, Mari Luz's dad said: "This comes as no surprise to me. We know it's him."

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